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Healthcare and Free Software

The Washington Monthly has an interesting article about healthcare and Free Software [1]. It seems that a free system named “VistA” from the US Veterans Affairs department (not to be confused with the unpopular OS “Vista” that Microsoft released a few years ago) is competing against a range of proprietary software for managing patient data.

VistA has apparently performed very well, it’s cheap and easy to install, the data can be shared with other programs, and it was largely written by doctors and nurses so it’s optimised to their needs. It has been proven that VistA has saved many lives through better management of medicines and through permitting statistical analysis of the results of various treatments. It has also allowed medical staff to work more quickly which reduces waiting times and medical expenses.

But as you would expect in the US, whenever there is a way of saving lives while also saving money there are companies lobbying for the opportunity to make money while allowing innocent people to die. Of course there are established medical companies who are doing this now and have been doing so for some time.

But the latest news is that Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and Allscripts, are sponsoring the Electronic Health Record Stimulus Tour – an aggressive measure to railroad doctors into buying proprietary software now.

MS is known for totally ignoring the law when it gives them an opportunity to gain market share, but this is a new low. What will MS do next? Sell drugs to children?

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